Pill bill aims to treat Mass. drug problem

Congressman Bill Keating joined with other leaders yesterday to announce 
new legislation on prescription drug abuse in the state.

Citing a “growing crisis” in the Bay State, politicians and substance-abuse counselors threw their support behind new legislation that aims to reduce prescription drug abuse in Massachusetts.

“It has a devastating effect on people of every socioeconomic background,” said Senate President Therese Murray during an announcement of the legislation yesterday.

Leaders are particularly concerned with opiate-related deaths from OxyContin and similar pills.

The legislation, which will be taken up by the Senate tomorrow, would require doctors to register with the state’s prescription monitoring program, mandate that hospitals notify parents when a child under 18 years old has been treated for an overdose and grant limited immunity to overdose victims and witnesses from certain drug charges.

Abuse of opiate drugs resulted in more than 23,000 hospitalizations in 2006, according to a 2009 report from the OxyContin and Heroin Commission.

While there is a stigma associated with drug abuse, support groups said it occurs everywhere, regardless of status.

“It doesn’t matter where people live, it doesn’t matter what their career is or how pretty their house or car is or how much they talk to their kids about drugs,” said Joanne Peterson, founder of the Raynham-based support group Learn to Cope.

Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey said in his county one person dies from an opiate-related drug overdose each week.

Besides the health toll, the problem also has a public safety toll.

Morrissey said his office has traced back house break-ins, assaults and robberies to opiate use.


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